Shipwrights Way crosses the South Downs National Park from north to south at its widest point, taking in a wide cross-section of habitats. Starting with extensive areas of woodland at Alice Holt Forest, you then travel across the internationally-important heaths surrounding Bordon. Approaching Petersfield, you will see the chalk downs themselves, stretching across the horizon. Then the route descends gently through farmland down to the sea and the marine nature reserve at Hayling Island.
The purple emperor is the emblem of Alice Holt Forest and generally lives in the tops of oak trees; people travel from far and wide to see its courtship displays in summer. You may also see grey heron, lesser spotted woodpecker, nightjar and willow tit, as well as Roe Deer and Muntjac - and bats if you happen to visit at dusk.
The extensive heathland around Bordon is home to all 12 native species of amphibians and reptiles, including the rare natterjack toad, as well as important ground-nesting birds such as Nightjar, Woodlark and the Dartford Warbler.
Approaching Liss, you will cross the Rover Rother, where you may see Brown Trout, mayflies in spring and the large and beautiful Banded Demoiselle, a damselfly often mistaken for a butterfly. The wet woodland here encourages ferns and mosses and provides a haven for wildlife.
The open chalk downland south of Petersfield is an incredibly rich habitat, supporting up to 50 plant species per square metre, such as round-headed rampion and orchids such as the pyramidial orchid, burnt orchid and early spider orchid. In turn these flowers attract butterflies including the Adonis blue and chalkhill blue. The fine-leaved grasses and low-growing herbs have a herby smell and provide a distinctive spongy feel to the ground.
Just south of Havant, you will reach Langstone Harbour, with its internationally celebrated birdlife. During the winter months as many as 40,000 birds may be present in the harbour, either roosting or feeding on the mudflats. Species regularly encountered include Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Brent Geese. From May to August Little Tern, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover nest here.